Happy Hanukkah! For the first night of the Festival of Lights, we went to my parents’ house, and I was planning on just making my good ol’ apple cider donuts. But then — I can’t say it was guilt. But I wanted to be true to my Jewy roots and dance in oil. Alight buttery balls of brioche dough, to puff, rise, and brown, showered in sugar as they cool. And fill them — not with jam, because I still just can’t do jelly donuts, but with Nutella. Because of course.
When you make the decision to sign up for a marathon, you are essentially giving up a large portion of your life for one third of a year. Last year, my first, was hard. Adjusting to running five days a week, up to 22 miles at a time, was rough on my body, but not necessarily on my mind. Last year, I had the luxury of flexibility. I had lost my job just two weeks before my training was set to begin. If it was going to rain in the evening, I could get my miles in in the morning — and not just at the crack of dawn in order to make it into an office at a decent hour. I could do it whenever I felt like it, whenever the weather permitted. This year is a whole new ballgame. I once again have a relatively low-mileage schedule to make it easier on my injury-prone body. But the intense heat of the summer has forced me into 6:00 a.m. workouts or earlier, freeing up my evenings, yes, but leaving me so exhausted that I can do no more than throw together an easy dinner (preferably without an oven or extended stovetop-time) before I feel I can do more than sit on the couch and stare at something — with my legs elevated, of course — and eat ice cream.
I’m not a big material gift-giver. Probably because I’m a pretty awkward gift-receiver. Sure, it’s always great to rip open some packaging and discover something extremely thoughtful, something you’ve always wanted, or something you never knew you would want but would end up using on a regular basis. It might also stem from the fact that my parents always insist that we not buy them anything for birthdays, Hanukkah, Mother’s or Father’s Day. Maybe we just need to be more savvy (note: parents do NOT want massage gift certificates), but what that has meant is that my gift to my family, my friends, my loved ones, is very often the gift of food. Putting love into a cake, brownies, penne or gnocchi; and the sacred ritual of gathering and filling our souls with that love. It becomes more than a meal, more than a gift: it is an experience, shared, together.
And sometimes, I go into overdrive. This is what happened this past weekend, when my fella celebrated his 33rd. We had blueberry pancakes with actual real bacon, his favorite kickin’ grilled chicken and blue cheese calzones (twice), and this Chocolate Nutella Banana Insanity Cake. Continue reading →
There are days when I dream of sun-ripened fruit and farmstand veggies and other fresh things. And then there are days when I try to Nutella everything. I’ve gotten into the habit of baking off loaves of peasant bread and schmearing warm slices with Nutella, or rescuing day-old peasant bread by toasting it and schmearing it with Nutella. It’s been my daily afternoon treat and I think it was saving me from the depths of everyone else’s winter depression. When we ran out of the sweet stuff over the weekend, we took advantage of the current thaw and took a walk up to one of our many local European markets (one of the great things about living in a Greek neighborhood) to see if they were selling it any cheaper than the supermarket on the corner. They weren’t, but they did have giant jars. Don’t worry, I said, I’ll find a use for it. But when I say “Nutella everything” I don’t just mean a schmear on things here and there — I’m talking about recreating Nutella in all kinds of food forms. Enter these chocolate-hazelnut banana muffins. Continue reading →
When I lived in Paris my junior year of college, I probably ate a crêpe every other day, if not every single day. My fillings of choice were simple: Nutella and banana. It wasn’t breakfast, and it wasn’t dessert. Usually it was lunch. I would eat it as I walked from my favorite outdoor crêperie (off rue de Passy) back to class, or to the Métro, pieces of just-warmed banana falling onto the cobblestone street as I would hurry across a small intersection while taking a bite, hot Nutella oozing onto my fingertips. Along with the pains au chocolat and other delectable pastries, I definitely had a problem. But it’s a problem that, almost a decade and a half later, I still can’t seem to shake.
Exhibit A: this blog. See, I ran out of apple oatmeal cookies, so I had to make something new last night. Forget the fact that I have chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer. I also had leftover pizza dough that needed to be used up before going bad. Aha, see, there’s another dirty little secret I haven’t yet let on. I make pizza. And bread. And calzones. We’ll get to the first two at some point, I promise. But first let’s hit the latter, and hit it hard. Forget savory dinnertime calzones (for now). We’re making Nutella-banana calzones. Which, according to my inner 20-year-old’s logic, would also make an excellent lunch.
Continue reading →